|System: X360, PS3, PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Airtight Games||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Capcom||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jan. 19, 2010||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Teen||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
June 10, 2009 - Dark Void, one of a handful of Western-developed games the company has been producing, made its playable debut at last year's E3. The title intrigued quite a few, but the coarse frame rate and a few half-baked gameplay ideas left us with doubts as to whether or not Airtight Games would be able to deliver on the game's potential. Since then, Capcom has kept the game under tight wraps, finally reemerging at this year's show. Clearly, they have been very busy.
Dark Void is really a whole different game since the last time we played it. Not only have the graphics been overhauled and the frame rate smoothed out, but the gameplay has been completely retooled. Whereas last year's game was more of a cover shooter with some flight sequences, the 2009 build is more of an action-adventure game that brings all of these pieces together.
Unlike the earlier version, the demo tosses you immediately into the sky with the signature Rocketeer-inspired jetpack. The awkward, vulnerable feeling of flying has been toned down considerably, which is a bit of a loss since subtle animation touches made flying with a jetpack seem as scary as it really would be. Instead, you have guns mounted on your back, and the controls feel more like a traditional aerial combat game like the developer's earlier Crimson Skies game.
After taking out a few targets from the air, we landed on a base and headed inside to sabotage it. Indoors the jetpack can be used as a sort of double-jump (it can also be triggered into flight mode at any time, but doing this in a cramped hallway is a good way to become a stain on the wall). The controls on the ground are very typically Gears of War, and the arsenal seems classically sci-fi, with lasers and plasma guns alongside more traditional weaponry. The cover system has cleaned up a bit, and it feels less fidgety, but it also lacks some of the swift animation and subtle camera work that makes it feel so satisfying in Gears.
It was after this sequence that it became really apparent how much Capcom and Airtight have been working to integrate the different elements. We flew around to another part of the base, went inside, and then started a vertical ascent using platforms for cover, while shooting enemies all the way. At any point we could have hopped off, flown, or walked around. It had a much more coherent feel, and it helps to make the jetpack seem less like a novelty and more like a real asset to the gameplay.
Capcom plans to launch Dark Void in the fall, a release target shared with seemingly every other game at the show. Capcom's producer expressed some concerns that the title could get "Dead Spaced" and lost among higher profile sequels, but they seem determined all the same. While the build still needed a bit of work, they have taken amazing strides in the last year, and it will be interesting to see what the final months hold.
CCC Freelance Writer